Don't Weaken

A blog by Director Terry Todd

OUR BODY: The Universe Within (Closed Exhibit)

By Terry Todd

Posted April 14, 2010

Update: Exhibit Closed. Click here to see our current exhibit.

Following a month of complicated negotiations, the Stark Center is very pleased to announce the opening of a major traveling exhibit, which will be the inaugural presentation in the Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture. Because of unanticipated hold-ups with the construction of several permanent displays for the Weider Museum, we decided to join forces with the owners of an exhibit–OUR BODY: The Universe Within-as a way to bring visitors to the Center, generate revenue, make use of the beautiful museum, and fulfill our mission of sharing knowledge about the history and importance of physical culture.

OUR BODY: The Universe Within focuses on human anatomy through the display of approximately 200 human bodies, organs, and other anatomical specimens. The bodies and related displays are produced through a process called polymer impregnation, in which the bodies’ water and fat are replaced with reactive plastics. This renders the specimens firm, changeless, and odorless and it allows visitors to view all aspects of the body in ways normally only accessible to medical doctors and scientists. The focus of this particular exhibit-which only appears in museums–will be on fitness, health, and sports. What’s more, many of the specimens will allow visitors to more fully understand the importance of exercise and a proper diet.

OUR BODY also weaves images from anatomical art created over the centuries with the specimens themselves as a way to promote thought and an understanding of the way the human body has served as an ongoing inspiration to artists and scientists. These historic images blend very naturally with the many paintings and classical statues scattered throughout the Stark Center’s lobby, reading room, and art gallery. Although medical science has solved many of the puzzles of the human body, the body itself remains an enduring mystery and a source of wonder to any thinking person. It seems to me that anyone who takes the time to really look at this exhibit will be moved by the complexity of the temples in which we’re destined to live out our lives. Some may even be moved to ask a question similar to the one posed by William Blake about a rather different body, “What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry.”

One of the most spectacular aspects of the exhibit is the way in which many of the specimens reveal the body’s musculature and how it all works together to produce complex movement. Full-body specimens are shown kicking a soccer ball, dribbling a basketball, riding an exercise bicycle, and many of the specimens reveal the muscles underlying the muscles on the surface of the body. Anyone who has ever experienced exercise- or sports-related soreness or injury will be able to see with real precision how and where it probably happened.

The displays in OUR BODY: The Universe Within are thematically grouped and presented with the dignity appropriate to the use of real human bodies donated to science for research and education. Neither cell phones nor photos are permitted in the exhibit, which we expect will be an enlightening experience for people of all ages and backgrounds. Some of the displays allow visitors to see, for example, the effect of smoking on the lungs, the effect of cardiovascular disease on the heart, and the effect of obesity on the body’s structure. Presented as they are, these roomfuls of specimens combine an austere beauty with a silent but persuasive call to live an active life. We feel truly fortunate to be able to share them as well as the many other items of interest displayed throughout the Stark Center.

During the exhibit, which opens on April 24th, the Stark Center’s public galleries, including the Weider Museum, will be open seven days a week. The Center’s research library will maintain its usual schedule. Exhibits, such as OUR BODY: The Universe Within, have been seen by many millions of people around the world, and over an eight month stay in Detroit this particular exhibit drew 270,000 visitors. Details about hours, directions, parking, access, and ticketing can be found on our website


  1. terry todd, May 18, 2010:


    Please feel free to bring your sketch pad and charcoal/pencils, although oils or watercolors would be too risky in case of an accident of some sort. Also, please be considerate of other visitors as you’re sketching. We have already had several UT art students use the exhibit.

  2. Dana, May 17, 2010:

    I see that photos are not permitted. Is it OK to bring art supplies such as a sketch pad and charcoal/pencils? For a figure artist this would be a rare opportunity to draw muscles and bones from a 3D model.

  3. Yvonne Graham, May 4, 2010:

    Is this the same exhibit I saw last August in Berlin Germany? It was there only for one week and I’m wondering, how can it stay that long in Austin? It is a great experience and I can’t wait to see it again.

  4. Glenn, May 4, 2010:

    come on “when does it end?” people, says: “scheduled to run until September 22nd 2010”

  5. Jessica Mc, May 3, 2010:

    I am so excited about this exhibit coming to Austin! There’s only one person in my house more excited than me– my 5 year old. Ever since we saw the billboard on 183, he has made me visit the website daily. Every afternoon he asks it we’re going today. I will bring him in the next few weeks. Thank you for bringing it to Austin!

  6. terry todd, April 30, 2010:


    You can buy the tickets just before you want to visit the exhibit. Buy them from the ticket window inside the food court in the north end of the UT football stadium. The ticket window is just opposite Starbucks.

  7. Sarah Hoffman, April 28, 2010:

    Do you have to purchase tickets online or can you purchase at the time you arrive? With 4 small children, sometimes our plans change last minute! We are so excited to bring our kids to this!

  8. terry todd, April 26, 2010:

    I’d say that it would be difficult to get through the exhibit in much less than an hour, unless you just weren’t paying attention. There’s so much to see, and so much detail. Some of the displays literally stop people in their tracks. Also, anyone who comes to see the BODY exhibit will also have a chance to take a look around the public areas of the Stark Center, where there are many things to see related to sports, weight-lifting, exercise, and muscles.

  9. Ginger, April 26, 2010:

    About how long does it take to visit the exhibit? I’m planning a trip for several 11 year-olds.

  10. terry todd, April 25, 2010:

    To James, Susan, David, and other who might be wondering, the exhibit is scheduled to run until late September. And thanks to those who have called or emailed with kind comments about the exhibit. We’ve had good attendance but no crowding so far in the day and a half the exhibit has been on display, and the comments people have left at the Stark Center have been overwhelmingly positive. Everyone seems to be fascinated by one aspect or another of the exhibit and some people have been visibly moved by what they have seen. One man told me, smiling as his eyes filled with tears, said that he had never fully realized what an “absolute miracle our bodies are.”

  11. Susan, April 24, 2010:

    How long will this exhibit run here in Austin?

  12. David Cottom, April 23, 2010:

    And, when does the exhibit close?

  13. Michael, April 22, 2010:


    Thanks for digging into this. I’m glad to see that Our Body has confirmed that the bodies were donated to the Foundation (newspaper articles from a couple years back from across the US suggested the source of their plastinated bodies was from the University of Dalian which was known to utilize unclaimed bodies). Now I can recommend both Body Worlds (which also uses only donated body bodies) as well as Our Body to people interested in this fascinated view into how our bodies are put together.

    I also thank you for the explanation of the Paris court case.


  14. Caroline, April 22, 2010:

    Thank you so much for bring this exhibit to Austin. I look forward to the experience.

  15. James, April 21, 2010:

    Is this exhibit just for this weekend?

  16. Terry Todd, April 21, 2010:


    We have shared your comments with the organizers of the exhibit and they have responded as follows:

    “Our Body the Universe Within is not affiliated with BodyWorlds, a privately owned commercial enterprise which is not affiliated with any educational or scientific organization. Our Body the Universe Within is the name of an exhibition conceived and toured by the Anatomical Sciences & Technologies Foundation LTD. a non-profit organization based in Hong Kong. It’s mission is to promote the study of Anatomy and to create ”The Museum of Life Sciences”. At the end of the touring exhibition period the specimens will return to the Museum. The specimens have been donated to the Foundation. A lower court in Paris, unlike those in virtually the rest of the world, used a recent law which had to do with burying human remains, including cremated ashes. While the law affects mummified remains and skeletons in museums in Paris, the law was arbitrarily applied to the Exhibit. The case is currently pending in the French Superior court.”

    What’s more, the Our Body the Universe Within exhibit has been vetted by and appeared in museums in Orlando, Oklahoma City, Detroit, San Antonio, Harrisburg, Tallassee, Hot Springs, and Mobile; and it has been vetted by UT Legal.


    Terry Todd

    H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports

  17. Stacy, April 21, 2010:

    Is it just for this weekend ?

  18. Pamela, April 21, 2010:

    I’m so happy this is coming to Austin! I saw the exhibit in Pittburgh while on a business trip and was so amazed. I’m glad my family will be able to have the same experience as I did.

  19. Michael, April 21, 2010:

    As I understand it, OUR BODY: The Universe Within is not affiliated with Gunther von Hagens and Body Worlds and unlike Body Worlds uses “unclaimed bodies” instead of donated bodies. This particular traveling organization had their Paris exhibit cut short and shut down by a judge due to the dubious origins of the bodies they use. If the claims that OUR BODY uses bodies which have been exhumed or used without permission, then shame on the Stark Center for supporting this organization. If the Stark Center wasn’t aware of this particular facet of OUR BODY, then shame on them for not performing due diligence.

  20. John in Austin, April 20, 2010:

    is this really in good taste?

  21. ashley, April 20, 2010:

    I cannot wait to see this!! I saw body worlds in Dallas a couple years ago and it was amazing!

  22. Matt Mathias, April 15, 2010:

    Thanks for bringing this facinating teaching and learning opportunity to our community. I will have my entire family there to learn about the wonderfully complex human body.

    Matt M.

  23. Denise Marx, April 14, 2010:

    Terry–YOU ROCK!!

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